Latest Government advice
The single most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.
When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we will reduce the spread of the infection. That is why the Government has introduced three new measures.
1. Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes.
2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces.
3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public.
Everyone must comply with these new measures. The police have been given the powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.
These measures came into effect on Monday 23 March. The Government will look again at these measures after three weeks and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.
1. Staying at home
You should only leave the house for one of four reasons:
* shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
* one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.
* any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
* travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.
These four reasons are exceptions - even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.
These measures must be followed by everyone. Separate advice is available for individuals or households who are isolating<[link removed]>, and for the most vulnerable who need to be shielded<[link removed]>. Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.
The Government has also identified a number of critical workers<[link removed]> whose children can still go to school or their childcare provider. This critical worker definition does not affect whether or not you can travel to work - if you are not a critical worker, you may still travel to work provided you cannot work from home.
Critical workers and parents of vulnerable children may leave the house to take children to and from school or their childcare provider.
2. Closing non-essential shops and public spaces
To reduce social contact, the Government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close. These include:
* pubs, cinemas and theatres.
* all retail stores selling non-essential goods - this includes clothing and electronics stores; hair, beauty and nail salons; and outdoor and indoor markets, excluding food markets.
* libraries, community centres, and youth centres.
* indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, arcades and soft play facilities.
* communal places within parks, such as playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms.
* places of worship, except for funerals attended by immediate families.
* hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use, excluding permanent residents, key workers and those providing emergency accommodation, for example for the homeless.
More detailed information and exemptions can be found here<[link removed]>, including the list of those businesses and other venues that must close. Other businesses can remain open and their employees can travel to work, provided they cannot work from home.
3. Stopping public gatherings
To make sure people are staying at home and apart from each other, the Government is also stopping all public gatherings of more than two people.
There are only two exceptions to this rule:
* where the gathering is of a group of people who live together - this means that a parent can, for example, take their children to the shops if there is no option to leave them at home.
* where the gathering is essential for work purposes - but workers should try to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace.
In addition, the Government is stopping social events, including weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies. This excludes funerals, which can be attended by immediate family.
4. Going to work
As set out in the section on staying at home, people can travel to and from work, but only where the work they do absolutely cannot be done from home.
With the exception of the organisations covered above in the section on closing non-essential shops and public spaces, the Government has not required any other businesses to close – indeed it is important for business to carry on.
Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working.
Sometimes this will not be possible, as not everyone can work from home. Certain jobs require people to travel to their place of work – for instance if they operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or are delivering front line services.
If you cannot work from home then you can still travel to work, provided you are well and neither you nor any of your household are self-isolating. This is consistent with advice from the Chief Medical Officer.
Employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able to follow Public Health England guidelines<[link removed]> including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).
Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms. Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a 2 metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.
No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.
No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.
As set out in the section on closing non-essential shops and public spaces, the Government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close. The Government has set out guidance<[link removed]> on which organisations this requirement covers. Advice for employees of these organisations on employment and financial support is available at gov.uk/coronavirus<[link removed]>.
At all times, workers should follow the guidance<[link removed]> on self-isolation if they or anyone in their household shows symptoms.
5. Delivering these new measures
These measures will reduce our day to day contact with other people. They are a vital part of our efforts to reduce the rate of transmission of coronavirus.
Everyone is instructed to comply with these new measures.
The Government will therefore be ensuring the police and other relevant authorities have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings where people do not comply.
They will initially last for the three weeks from 23 March, at which point the Government will look at them again and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.
NHS Volunteer Responders
The Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, recently put out a call for 250,000 volunteers to help with the coronavirus crisis. In 24 hours, 405,000 people volunteered. This is a fantastic response and if you would like to volunteer, a link can be found below.
NHS Volunteer Responders<[link removed]>
As you might expect, I’m working closely with Dartford Borough Council and it has updated the main pages on its website to provide up-to-date information about its services during the outbreak. Things are moving very fast so Council Leader, Jeremy Kite, tells me the Council has also taken the very helpful step of setting up a specific Facebook page to bring together all sorts of reliable information. The page is called Dartford Together and you can follow it on Facebook. Links to the Council’s main page and the Dartford Together Facebook page can be found below.
The Council has reluctantly suspended its walk-in services at the Civic Centre but it has well-established plans to deal with situations like these and core services are still being provided - albeit with a bit of tweaking and flexible working. Access the services online or by calling the Civic Centre on 01322 343434.
For residents of Hartley and Hodsoll Street, please see Sevenoaks District Council's website at www.sevenoaks.gov.uk<[link removed]>
Dartford Borough Council<[link removed]>
Dartford Together Facebook page<[link removed]>
Help is coming for the self-employed
A debate took place in the House of Commons on financial support for the self-employed and a link to this can be found below:
[link removed]<[link removed]>
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steven Barclay said during the debate: “We know that many self-employed people are in real distress, but we are working urgently to address this problem, and I say to the self-employed: we have not forgotten you—help is coming. But the policy and delivery are complex, and we cannot and should not rush to announce a scheme that gives rise to more questions than it answers.”
“Let me reassure everyone in this House and the self-employed people they represent that further help is indeed coming, but we have to make sure we get this right and that we target the right support to those who are most in need. The Chancellor will provide a further update on support for the self-employed in the coming days.”
Changes to jobcentre appointments and Universal Credit
The DWP has provided me with the following information:
In line with Government advice, to help protect our customers and colleagues, from 24 March our doors will be temporarily closed.
People receiving benefits no longer need to attend jobcentre appointments.
People will continue to receive their benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the jobcentre in person are suspended. These changes will be in place for 3 months from 19 March 2020.
Anyone already claiming Universal Credit who thinks they may have been affected by coronavirus, should contact their work coach using the
* online journal, or
* calling the Universal Credit helpline.
On Friday the Chancellor announced that the standard rate in Universal Credit and tax credits will be increased by £20 a week for one year from 6 April.
People applying for Universal Credit, Employment Support Allowance or other benefits should not go to a jobcentre but apply for them online<[link removed]>.
Suspension of face to face assessments for sickness and disability benefits
Face to face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits has been suspended.
This is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus.
We will ensure those who are entitled to a benefit continue to receive support, and that new claimants are able to access the safety net.
This affects claimants of Personal Independence Payment, those on Employment and Support Allowance and some on Universal Credit, as well as recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. These changes will be in place for 3 months from 17 March 2020.
The suspension of face-to-face assessments also covers new claims to those benefits.
Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives
There are many scams going around at the moment, so please be aware before responding. Below is an example of a current one.
[Gareth Johnson MP website]<[link removed]>
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